Pursuant to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, citizens have the “right to bear arms,” or the right to possess guns. Notwithstanding, individual states have different regulations regarding gun possession.
For instance, some states, like Texas, has no regulation on purchasing assault rifles, no requirement for registering firearms once purchased, and allows gun owners to carry firearms so long as it is concealed. Conversely, California is a tough-gun law state, which bans the sale of certain types of guns and makes it a criminal misdemeanor to openly carry an unloaded gun in specific areas.
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How Do Laws Differ in Different States?
The majority of gun legislation in the United States is enacted at the state level. States take different approaches with regard to the following:
- Sales (such as whether background checks are required, the age in which you must be to purchase a firearm, etc.)
- Permits (whether one is required and how long it takes to process)
- Licensing laws
- Carrying laws (open carrying laws versus concealed weapons)
- Use of guns in self-defense
What Does Federal Law Say Regarding Gun Possession?
In general, federal law establishes the baseline regarding the types of people who are ineligible to purchase firearms. Pursuant to the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, the sale of firearms is prohibited to any person who:
- Is underage (with few exceptions, must be at least 18 years old);
- Is a fugitive;
- Is unlawfully in the United States;
- Is either a criminal or under indictment for a crime that is punishable by more than a year;
- Has renounced U.S. citizenship;
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the military;
- Has an outstanding restraining order against him or her;
- Is committed to a mental institution; or
- Has been convicted of domestic violence.
What is the Penalty for a Prohibited Person Carrying a Firearm?
Possession of a firearm or ammunition by a prohibited person is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. If the person has three or more prior convictions of a felony crime of violence such as burglary, robbery, or assault, or conviction of drug trafficking, the person can receive a minimum sentence of 15 years without parole.
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What is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act?
In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was enacted. It amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 and imposed a waiting period of 5 days before a licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer can sell, deliver, or transfer a handgun to an unlicensed person.
It only applies to states that do not have alternate systems of conducting background checks on handgun purchasers. Nine states, including California, Connecticut, New York and Washington, require universal background checks and two others (Maryland and Pennsylvania) require point of sale background checks.
Are There Taxes on Firearms?
Yes. The National Firearms Act places restrictions on the possession and sale of machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, and silencers. It imposes a tax on the making and transfer of these types of firearms. It also requires the purchaser to go through a lengthy background check and necessitates that the weapon be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Should I Speak with An Attorney Regarding Federal Gun Possession Laws?
Guns are deadly weapons and are heavily regulated. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you speak to a knowledgeable criminal lawyer with any questions you may have about gun sale transactions or gun possession before you buy, sell, or use a gun.